Album Reviews

Julia Jacklin – Pre Pleasure

(Transgressive) UK release date: 26 August 2022

The Australian musician has an uncanny knack for documenting her generation’s anxieties and issues, and wrapping them up in songs you’ll be humming for weeks

Julia Jacklin - Pre Pleasure Now onto her third album, Julia Jacklin has quietly but effectively embellished her sound since her debut record Don’t Let The Kids Win was released in 2016. It’s been a gradual evolution for the Australian musician, but it’s certainly apparent on Pre Pleasure.

For Pre Pleasure, Jacklin has taken a note from Canadian indie-rock royalty. The album was recorded in Montreal with producer Marcus Paquin, with her touring backing musicians Ben Whiteley and Will Kidman of Toronto’s The Weather Station. Not to mention string arrangements by none other than Owen Pallett, responsible for some of Arcade Fire‘s most stirring moments.

The result is Jacklin’s best album yet which marries her direct, personal lyrics to her most accessible songs to date. Just one listen to I Was Neon will have the listener humming along in minutes, while the standout Love, Try Not To Let Go employs the old quiet-loud-quiet device to terrific effect. While it may be a bit too restrained to become a crossover hit, it’s an exciting demonstration of where Jacklin is heading as a songwriter.

As ever, her lyrics are the highlight of the album. Opening track Lydia Wears A Cross examines her relationship with religion, thinking back to an old schoolfriend who she’d “sit back to back, listening to Jesus Christ Superstar”. In the end, Jacklin decides it’s not for her: “I’d be a believer, if it was all just song and dance.”

Be Careful With Yourself is a lovely declaration of friendship or love through the haze of anxiety, where Jacklin begs her friend to stop smoking, stick to the speed limit, and “make sure you have got a little savings”. Perhaps the album’s most affecting moment, and the most personal song that Jacklin has written to date, is Less Of A Stranger, a song about communication breakdown of families (“You’re never gonna see me though the same eyes my friends do”) and a distant relationship with her mother. It’s hushed, sad and absolutely stunning.

Elsewhere, Jacklin takes well aimed barbs at men who “throw their film knowledge around the workplace” and examines the complex issues of sexuality and libido in Ignore Tenderness. It’s the latter where she’s at her best, summing up the contradiction between natural desire and childhood conditioning in just a couple of pithy lines – “Been watching porn, lights off, headphones on, but when the pleasure begins, my education begins” being just one example.

Like her contemporary Phoebe Bridgers, Jacklin has an uncanny knack for documenting her generation’s anxieties and issues, and wrapping them up in songs you’ll be humming for weeks. She is quite the talent, and going by Pre Pleasure, she’ll be around for quite some time to come.

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